In his search for bullpen help, Sandy Alderson suggested that Zack Wheeler might be an option. That would be a bad idea.
“There’s no reason for us to say, ‘Well, he’s got to be a starter,'” Alderson said according to ESPN New York. “Now, he may feel that way himself. But it may be that coming back after two years he’s better off pitching out of the pen.”
No, he is not better off that way. After missing those two years after Tommy John surgery, is it really a good plan to change everything Wheeler has ever done in his entire baseball career? The preparation for a starter and a reliever are very different. It is hard enough to shake off the rust after not pitching for two seasons, but to then have to adapt to a new routine? It is not fair and it might not be healthy to ask Wheeler to do that.
There are other issues as well.
“You might have to be careful. You might not be able to pitch him back-to-back (days). It might have to be two innings at a time,” Alderson said.
So that means half the time, you are leaving the bullpen short one pitcher because Wheeler would not be available. Overall, this is just a bad idea, but it appears Alderson is not married to it.
“These are all hypothetical at the moment. But I don’t see any reason to just eliminate that possibility,” he added.
On another bullpen note, do not look for Alderson to sign any relievers to more than one season. He admitted his history with such signings is not particularly good.
“The first guy we signed was a two-year deal (the terrible D.J. Carrasco), and that didn’t work out,” Alderson said, “We’ve had subsequent two-year deals that didn’t work out all that well (Frank Francisco). In fact, we have about one a year. That’s why I think we’ll be a little bit cautious, especially with that midrange.”
Good idea. Relievers are difficult — they can have a good year, then flop the next. The best bet is to sign a bunch of guys on the cheap and hope to find lightning in a bottle for a season. Then repeat the process every off-season.
It is likely the Alderson will walk away from the Winter Meetings with at least one new bullpen arm and with one fewer outfielder (Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson — likely the former, but I’m hoping for the latter).